Nagi no Asukara – 11

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Nagi no Asukara just can’t resist it’s less winning impulses sometimes, but the overall package remains one of the best of the season.

In looking at why this series is going to flop commercially (and spectacularly so, by the looks of it) despite the fabulous visuals and the fact that it’s an Okada original, I wonder if the fact that you have to completely check your irony at the door to really buy into it is a major factor.  This series may just be too earnest for its own good – while there are moeblob series that mostly lack irony that manage to do well (like Tamayura) they do so by obsessively fetishizing the moe – and even most moe series have a sort of de riguer snark to them because it seems to be expected.  There’s really none of that with this show – emotionally speaking, what you see is what you get.

No doubt about it, this is one unfashionable anime.  I admire its emotional directness because, as I’ve noted, anime tends to be too emotionally subdued for my tastes as a whole.  There are some issues with this approach, in the main that far too often the waterworks get cranked up and it seems we can’t get through an episode with a flood of tears (and huge ones they were this week).  I wish now that the whole Miuna storyline had been jettisoned because even though it has some real potential, Okada just can’t be trusted with it – she can’t help going saccharine and cloying whenever Miuna is involved.  Giving that plot thread and character to Okada is like offering a beer to an alcoholic.

Minus those (re)lapses, though, Nagi no Asukara continues to be one of my go-to shows of the season.  It’s even managed to inspire some fine work by unvarnished hack Yoshino Hiroyuki, who penned the simply brilliant seventh episode and also contributed the very solid effort this week.  If a broken clock is still right twice a day even in this digital age, Yoshino-sensei has used up his outs – but so far so good, as apart from Miuna’s unintentionally comic scenes this was a very good effort.  And while this isn’t his doing, I just want to say again, this show is not just gorgeous but really thoughtful and imaginative visually – just look at the scene where the sea kiddos’ clothes are drying after they get out of their Ena bath.  I’m not sure I’ve seen a series that offers so many visual rewards since Hyouka.

Story-wise, I like the way Nagi is chugging along, sticking to its straightforward narrative and tonal style.  The two tracks continue apace – we see the building personal drama on the personal side, and the intertwined impending global catastrophe (the details of which are still pretty fuzzy, even to those involved).  At the center of both, of course, is Hikari.  He’s grown enormously in terms of empathy over the course of the series but he remains, in essence, the same tenacious little pug he was when the show started – he’s not a “float with the current” sort of sea kiddo.  He’s a fighter, even if the enemy is the end of the world itself – which always made it seem unlikely he was going to give up on Manaka gracefully.  He’s emerged as the leader of a sort of guerrilla-style effort to save the piggies via the Ofunehiki, and now the fishermen’s collective – faed by reduced catches due to the strangely cold summer – has come around to his side.

I quite liked the little details in the scene where the men from the collective asked for Hikari’s forgiveness and appealed to him for help – in Japan, for adult men to behave that way towards a mere boy is enormously difficult.  I liked the symbolism of Akari going over to stand with the men begging for Hikari’s help, and I liked the way Hikari showed how much he’s grown by disdaining from doing any crowing or calling out the men for their obvious hypocrisy – he was just happy to know he had a chance to do what he believes he right.  But Uroko-sama pops the balloon pretty quickly, telling him that the Ofunehiki won’t make any difference to the Sea God.  Even this doesn’t stop the kids from plowing ahead, even as their Ena thickens and the date of their hibernation (the same as that of the proposed Ofunehiki) draws closer.  No one seems quite sure what to believe, but everyone seems to agree that things are about to change forever, and there’s a strong impulse to at least go down fighting.

Meanwhile, Kaname’s very smooth confession to Chisaki – not even the arrival of her parents throws him off his game – seems to have been for naught.  As bedtime draws closer Chisaki, ironically, draws inspiration from Kaname’s boldness to plan a confession to Hikari.  I can’t think she’s going to do any better than he did, and indeed there are signs that Manaka’s conversation with the red-bellied sea slug may have changed her view of Hikari, but the overall feeling is that no one wants to go to sleep with any potential regrets left unaddressed.

I like the message here – it’s a positive one to me, consistent with my belief that most of our regrets end up being things we didn’t do and wish we had, and not the reverse.  Once the long sleep comes no one knows what the world on the surface will be like, if everyone will wake up together or even – though no one wants to discuss it – whether everyone will wake up at all.  The last wild-card in all this is Akari’s plan to combine the Ofunehiki with her wedding, in effect offering herself up as the sacrifice to the Sea God (which many have surmised based on the OP/ED might end up being Manaka).  One way or another I think we’re going to see some major events next week, as it brings the first cour to an end (the show is off on the 26th, a down week for many series) and may, in fact, be the last episode with the cast in its current form.

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  1. S

    Great review as usual.
    NagiAsu has truly surprised me. I remember watching the 1st episode and laughing at some parts I don't think I'm supposed to laugh at, but the characters and the plot keep becoming more and more intriguing and now this show is the one I look forward to most each week.

    I've been wondering; what makes you think Nagiasu is going to bomb commercially? Tari Tari was another one of P.A. Works' less talked shows compared to other summer 2012 shows (unless I was looking at the wrong threads) but I'm sure it had quite a strong sale; >7,000 sales in the BDs' first week.

  2. Amazon has a pre-order system commonly referred to as "stalker points" by anime fans. It's generally accurate within about 15% in predicting how a series will sell. As of now, it has Nagi at well under 1K combined BD//DVD, which would be a failure by any standard.

    Tari Tari did quite well, but it had somewhat more sexualized female characters if you ask me, and that's a pretty major factor.

  3. i

    Out of interest, can those of outside of Japan pre-order too? And there's a good reason why it would be low that I've thought of. I would not buy NnA because I have no idea what to expect from the next part of the series. If I buy the first volume without knowing what'll happen in the rest of the series, it's like a blind investment and if it comes off bad watching the decent beginning would be like rubbing salt in my mouth; not very appealing. If it turned out great I might buy the whole series (I won't actually, under any circumstance but let's say), however because I don't know I hold back for now.

    If it's a show with a manga like SnK or stupid moe/fanservice/harem/LN anime then people have a reference to work with when it comes to buying for the future as they know what to expect but with an original it's harder, at least IMO.

    Also as I have never bought anime in volumes but as season packs, I always thought buying bulk was more efficient and cheaper. Is that assumption correct?

  4. On your last question, generally yes.

    As far as non-Japanese pre-ordering I don't see why not, as long as you can navigate But if you do it just to move the numbers, you end up making the system less predictive so it's kind of a douchy thing to do.

  5. i

    Doesn't pre-ordering mean paying money for a pre-order? How is that either douchy or just moving numbers. And like I already said, I would not consider buying NnA stuff. It's a good series but not good enough for me to spend money.

  6. There's no financial commitment needed to register on the stalker numbers. That's why a show can fall victim to an organized campaign to scam the numbers (which has happened).

  7. i

    Didn't know that and even if I did I'm an honest enough person to follow through on a pre-order commitment. Also navigating isn't hard if you switch it to English on the conveniently located button at the top. Earnest question – would the delivery to North America for stuff via be massive. I once tried importing Top Gear DVDs and it cost a bundle in shipping. I have very little experience in that sort of stuff as I usually just shop on Amazon here.

    Correction: navigating is very hard. I just tried to look up the dvd box for Chihayafuru season 2 but it's all kanji and no furigana. What level of kanji competence would I need to read this stuff? And also small favor. Could you tell me what it means when it says that DVDs are only viewable in certain regions (region 2 for Chihayafuru). Does that me I could import it and it won't work?

  8. Z

    DVDs won't work unless your player is capable of playing all regions. BDs are less of a concern as Japan and the Americas share the same region for that format anyway.

  9. i

    One last question before I go crazy on Amazon – if I bought a BD player, it would play BDs from both Japan and N.America right. So would it play DVDs from both as well?

  10. H

    While the US and Japan share a BR region (A) they do not share a DVD region (1 and 2 respectively) so no, you probably wouldn't be able to play region 2 dvds on a BR player you bought in an American store. Also, the show did just get licensed by NISA so if you want to wait a buy it there you won't contribute to stalker points but you will be supporting the show.

  11. t

    I suddenly noticed something. maybe it was there all the time and I didn't notice till now?
    the first moments this episode (after the OP), Hikari was the narrator. he said that chisaki and kaname were acting weird but he didn't notice at that time. so it's even more interesting with that fact.

    you are right about Miuna. when she is involved, someone there is losing the grip, maybe Okada? 😛 but it wasn't that bad this time. it was a reasonable sobbing. sure, quite a sob, but hey it was somehow under control (unlike ep#5).

    I liked that NnA isn't telling us everything to details, but it's not hard to understand. we never knew or saw in our eyes that elders ignored Hikari's "prophecies" about the upcoming "event". but at least we got to see the circle here closing with their apology. and it's mostly interesting since they want peace with the sea-people. and I liked how it's involved their livelihood.

    I am having hard time to grasp Akari. on one hand I know she wants to do everything right like supporting Miuna and establish her relationship with Miuna's father and all.
    on the other hand, she looks distant. once again, NnA isn't declaring it directly, but obviously something is there, I guess she is holding things in her stomach for the sake of her family. both the sea-family (Hikari and their father) and both for the land-family (Miuna and her dad).
    despite that she is resolved to do..who-know-what at the end with Ofunehiki.
    speaking of Ofunehiki, it won't help. or so they say. never trust adults in those matters 😛

    I am still not so sure where this is heading in the macro level with Akari, sea god, Manaka, Ofunehiki, societies, apocalypse and so…let it move on little by little. it's great that way.
    but in the micro it's getting more and more interesting. the characters are changing all the time. and it's only Hikari. we saw it with Manaka, Kaname even Tsumugu and now Chisaki. willing to confess to Hikari?that's a big step for our Chisaki. but we saw it in little steps ever since the beginning. although now she is resolved to confess and change, and it's not necessary because of the upcoming apocalypse and the "fear".
    but what about Kaname?sure, he knew all along she loved Hikari. but wouldn't it hurt for him if she were to confess now?well, Kaname is strong…yet it's painful. I am not sure she thought about it enough.

    as I said before, I am glad that the love-complex is developed here little by little. more than that, we get to see direct interactions and confessions as it's developing. what I am saying is that the whole thing is dynamic, and not unlike in other anime where the complex is somewhat static.
    it helps developing the characters as well. and it's mostly intriguing when it's done that way.

  12. K

    My jaw simply drop at the sheer audacity of Kaname's confession. Wow…

  13. J

    Hmmm… I guess I'm just apathetic towards Miuna scenes. Aside from the episode where she accepted Akari as her future mother, I didn't think the water works was overdoing it. I mean, you've just accepted someone as your new mother, and now she's offering herself as a sacrifice before he can actually become her mother. To a little kid, that's distressful.

    What I find incredibly ironic is that the land people, not the sea people, are the ones pushing for the Ofunehiki. The Sea People are the religious ones, the Land people are the ones to reject the sea and the supposed sea god, and yet here are the land people performing their due diligence while the sea people shirk it to enter into hibernation, no concern for their land brothers who reached out to them.

    It sort of reminds me how in the Bible, the gospel was brought to the Jews, but they rejected it. So then the gospel was brought to the gentiles, whom had rejected God, but ended up accepting it.

  14. R

    Well, it can't be helped. It was stated by Akari in this episode that the land people pushing it perhaps for the sake of survival. And it's not like the sea people have no concern either. It just there's no way to save them, even Uroko said that doing Ofunehiki will have little to no effect.

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